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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Run on Walk-ons

Today we got word that current UNO and former Papillion-La Vista High School QB Steve Heiman is leaving the Mavs to join Nebraska as a walk-on. Heiman joins a growing list of players overlooked by Callahan and Co. that have decided to return to Nebraska as a walk-on. Previously former Lincoln East quarterback Jim Ebke and former Fremont wide receiver Matt Donahue also gave up scholarships at their respective schools to walk-on at NU. Ebke was playing for Division I-AA South Dakota State, while Donahue was a “Fighting Frankie Solich” at Ohio.

While I’m not one to blame the demise of the Huskers completely on a supposed lack of walk-ons under the previous regime, these are important additions nonetheless. Never underestimate the importance of these homegrown Huskers and the pride they have for playing for Nebraska.

As Heiman notes:
"A lot went into it. It was a very tough decision, very hard to leave UNO," Heiman said. "But then it came down to a personal thing. It's always been a dream of mine to play for Nebraska. I didn't want to be sitting here 10 years down the road going, 'What if? What if?'"
These are the guys that push the starters everyday for any chance to contribute. The guys that get bruised and bloodied on special teams for the opportunity to perhaps wind up in the box score. These are also the guys that stand up in team meetings and remind them of the meaning associated with the “N” on their helmets, as Thomas Rice did after the team’s 41-6 loss to Missouri.
“I got up and said, ‘I don’t know if you guys realize this, but there are a million-and-a-half people who care about this program. And they want to see you do well, ” Rice said, describing his heartfelt speech to teammates.

“A lot of people within this state live and die with this program. They’d give so much to be a part of it, and they want so much for us to do well.”
That’s really the bottom line. The whole “I play for Nebraska” schtick is supposed to be more than a cheesy tagline. It was meant to be a STATE of mind. A constant reminder of 1.7 million people who ache over every dropped pass and cringe at every blowout loss.

Thankfully the new group of walk-ons seem to have an intimate understanding of this.

Coach Osborne told us himself if you're a five-star recruit or a recruited walk-on, no one is different," [2008 walk-on Omaha Bryan's Jeremy Wallace] said. "You make your name on the field. I know I'm going in there with a chip on my shoulder.

"Whoever is in front of me, even though I may be a walk-on, I'm coming for that spot."

He said he's not going to Nebraska "just to be at Nebraska."

"I'm going to Nebraska to play," Wallace said. "As walk-ons, we are the core of the program. Our work ethic is going to determine how the other players work."
Viva La Walk-ons!